During what was spring break for many students, CitySquash–which celebrated its 10-year anniversary this year–took eight local students away for six days for the 2012 CitySquash Bermuda Tour, the organization’s first international tour.

CitySquash is a nonprofit after-school enrichment program dedicated to helping underprivileged youth fulfill their greatest potential with “tutoring, mentoring, community service, travel, culture, high school placement, employment training and college prep,” as well as playing the England-born indoor racket game squash.

Squash is a game played by two individual players or two teams. It is like handball except there are four walls and rackets. One player serves to start a rally–the exchange of shots–which continues until one player hits the ball out or down or fails to hit the ball before it has bounces twice. The scoring is up to 11 points and the person who wins the best of five games wins.

The program, established in 2002 by Sanford Schwartz, was founded in the Bronx at Fordham University and serves students from third grade through college graduation. The organization uses the sport of squash to help teach the participants skills they cannot get outside of the classroom, such as sportsmanship, teamwork and integrity, much like other schools do with other sports. However, their No. 1 goal is to get their students into college, and a number of their students win scholarships for specialized high schools and college.

Michael Shrubb, the assistant program director of CitySquash and a native of Bermuda, along with another staff member, one parent and the students were able to travel to the island thanks to donations from CitySquash supporters. The CitySquash team played squash every morning, competed in a tournament against local juniors, visited historical and cultural sights and, of course, spent time on the beach.

The group stayed with Shrubb’s family to ease the cost of the stay. The trip was the first time many kids left the country and went on an airplane.

Shrubb was able to come to the United States and go to boarding school and college playing the game. During the summer after his junior year at Dartmouth College, he interned at CitySquash. Unsure of what he wanted to do after graduation, his squash coach forwarded an email from CitySquash Executive Director Tim Wyant about applying for a position there. Shrubb got the job and became one of nine people on staff at the organization.

CitySquash was the fourth squash program of 10 to be founded in the country. About 130 students participate every year. The students’ academic progress is vital to the program, and if they need help, Fordham University students volunteer their time as tutors.

“Squash is an effective prep school/college recruiting tool, as it is not played by as many people as sports like basketball and soccer, but it is played at most of the best universities in the country,” said Shrubb. “The squash world is not huge, so when an organization like CitySquash comes along and makes such a big impact right off the bat, it’s hard to not take note of it.”

As the assistant program director, Shrubb handles development, fundraising and PR for the organization. He also runs CitySquash’s mentor program and coaches squash three afternoons a week. He stated that whenever he starts to get restless in the office, he makes his way to the squash court with some of the students.

CitySquash students have gone on to do great things. In the decade the organization has been around, they have had three graduating high school classes and only one student has not gone on to college. A couple years ago, a CitySquash student was accepted to Cornell University and is now in her sophomore year. She is currently the 23rd-ranked female in college squash. Another student captained the No. 2 high school squash team in the nation last year.

Eric Molina, 12, is one of the students who went to Bermuda last month. This is his second year in the program.

“They helped me get back on track with my classes and make sure I am where I’m supposed to be,” said Molina. “Squash is really fun, and we get to travel and learn about different cultures. I would like to continue on in college.”

Shrubb stated that CitySquash has helped him appreciate how fortunate he is when he sees the obstacles faced by the underprivileged children in the program.

“Working at CitySquash has proven to me that kids are kids wherever they grow up, whether that be in Bermuda or Greenwich, Connecticut, or Arthur Avenue in the Bronx,” said Shrubb. “Every kid wants to go to college, wants to play sports and wants to have fun. The kids in our program are so driven and ambitious, it’s amazing. Some want to go to Harvard and some want to be the best squash player in the country. I’m sure that in time both will happen.”

For more information about the organization, visit CitySquash.org.